Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Well Dressed Lemmings Marching Towards Oblivion

Being the perpetual and totally out of place liberal oddball living in Red-state suburbia I notice things that the other inhabitants take as a normal part of their reality. The best example I can give happened several years ago at pool party my wife and I were invited. The hosts were part of our adoption group and were completely gracious in throwing open the doors to the huge and lavishly decorated home. All told at the height of the party they had about thirty people wandering around inside the house and outside playing by the pool. To be honest, if by some weird shift in reality, including significant changes in my personality, I owned a similar house I would have never allowed so many people who were at best just acquaintances such access to my home.

That being said, I would not be exaggerating in the least when I write that because of so many people I ended up using their master bathroom to change upon arriving and was stunned to realize it had a floor area bigger than my living room and kitchen combined. The garden tub was so big that it rivaled some motel pools I have seen. The shower stall...well, lets just say there were numerous nozzles as well as some sort of bench inside whose design raised more questions than I want to bring up. When you throw in everything else about the rest of the house and the pool it could have comfortably housed more people than were at the party to begin with. The shocker in all this was that the family who lived there only numbered five people. While I kept my mouth shut, the entire time I was at the party I desperately wanted to ask why in the hell did such a small family need such a gigantic house.

Yes, I know the stock answer many will instinctively recite. That the owners were highly successful people who deserve to reap the rewards of all their educational preparation and hard work. Far from betraying my growing socialistic tendencies I still agree, mostly, with that assumption. Anyone who works hard both in school and later at their jobs has a basic human right to reap the rewards that comes their way. The problem comes with the question that at what point does reaping justifiable rewards cross the line and become gross excesses in a world where many people struggle just to keep rain off their heads while finding enough to eat for one day. If that is too abstract I'll phrase it this way, just how big a damn home, or homes, does a person need?

This question is especially relevant to the few multimillionaire and billionaire elites who control the vast majority of wealth on the planet. How many yachts, estates, cars, and property do they need to own before being satisfied? This still does not let middle class types like myself off the hook. While I live in a “moderately”sized home of two-thousand square feet I have been to countries where that would be considered a plush mansion.

For those in the developing world attaining the American middle class lifestyle became the ultimate goal with the embrace of free market capitalism after the fall of the Soviet Union. I'll hazard a guess and say that if the average American had any thought about those living in poverty outside the United States he or she would applaud any attempt to bring the Walmart-style consumerism to that country.

The massive problem that the world finds itself is that it cannot sustain an American style of life for every human on the planet. In fact, and it is sad to say many don't want to understand this, but even now we are destroying the global environment along exhausting current resources just to keep those of us living in First World countries supplied with televisions, refrigerators, cell phones, cars, and other items we think we can't live without. Throw in the populations of China and India seeking the joys of an American materialistic lifestyle and you might as well go ahead and nuke the planet because in a truly perverse way it might be kinder.

Unfortunately, here in America any person, like me, who does not believe this rate of materialistic consumption can be sustained is usually branded a commie pinko out to destroy the most wonderful and awesome place ever to exist on this planet. I am sure someone reading this is asking the question that if I have so many problems with America's God given way of life why don't I leave? In all honesty I can answer that I have seriously looked into it but unless you are a rocket scientists or have wads of cash it is extremely difficult. Yes, I would very much like to leave what I see to be a parade of fat and well dressed lemmings marching towards an abyss but as of right now, I cannot.

Now there is always the hope that society in general and those in power will realize that our civilization is ultimately screwed if we stay on our current course but I am not optimistic. My belief is only further reinforced by the growing economic libertarian ideology around me that exclaims “I have mine, and to hell with everyone else.” This ignorant and selfish attitude is suspicious of any idea or person that suggests that there are somethings in life that supersede the individual and the pursuit of unrestrained personal profit.

What I find darkly humorous at times is a local, retired radio personality whose one overriding obsession is his fear that democracies always fall once the people—and I take this generally as a reference to mean minorities on welfare---realize they can vote themselves cash from the state treasury. Yes, I will go as far to agree that it can be a legitimate concern, now I have no idea if he includes all those businesses that receive various forms of corporate welfare meaning they make at least millions in profit but pay no taxes or possibly even get money back from the government.

My counter but equal concern to his is that there are selfish and hugely ignorant people like him that blithely ignore new and unique problems the nation and world now faces. With over seven billion people living on the planet our free market-based industrial civilization cannot be sustained. Sure, civilization has headed off past threats to its existence by incorporating new technologies that raised efficiencies but conversely it also raised consumption and resource extraction making the problem even worse. When you throw in literally billions of new people all wanting the unrestrained American Dream we have jumped way past the breaking point. In short I believe the only way our civilization will survive is to adapt to a new reality.

Human shortsightedness is a near absolute, although our species did find the means to adapt to the world's changing conditions at the onset of the last ice age, which meant the beginnings of civilization. So, as we face increasingly drastic and deteriorating conditions there is a chance that we might find it in ourselves to once again adapt. 

Don't follow my reasoning? Try reading this:

"The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent."


MikeP said...

Well, the obvious solution is to cut NASA funding so they can't do studies like this anymore.

joeh said...

I believe the pendulum is starting to swing away from consumption for the sake of consumption. Communism has proven to work only for those in charge. Capitalism works, but it needs checks and balances. I don't guess we will ever get it right, but we do get it better than most...we could do better.

Pixel Peeper said...

Hah - this resonated with usually branded a commie pinko...

After watching a show about that family with the 18 (?) kids - are they the Duggars, or something like that? - I made a comment to my South Carolinian co-workers that I noticed they used foam cups to drink from. How much waste would this generate, with a family of 20 (or however many they were at the time) using foam cups for their drinks?

I believe I heard, "This is just like some liberal tree hugger loser, to notice something like that!"

I haven't seen or read the NASA study yet, but personally I believe one of the first effects we'll notice are ever-increasing meat prices. From what I've read, it takes about 3,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef... that will not be sustainable or affordable too much longer.

Rose L said...

I have always wondered why some people need such large homes. And all the special add-ons of luxury items just seems like a waste. Even if I won a lottery, I would never go out and purchase a mansion or lots of things for myself. I have had a list of things I would do if I won a lottery, and most of it is for others; get a friend who is living in low income housing a small place of her own, buy another who needs a better vehicle one to replace her old one, set up trust fund for the daughter of my niece (my niece died last summer), give to charities, etc. I would not need all that money and it only seems right to spread it around to those in need.
Those multimillionaires and billionaires really do not need all that money. It would be so thoughtful to spread it around and help others. I mean, if the shoe was on the other foot, wouldn't they appreciate someone who did?
There is so much I do not understand but I do understand human kindness.

Beach Bum said...

Mike: Yeah, the same people say that exact thing whenever one of those inconvenient Global Warming studies gets published.

Joeh: I agree, Marx's little pipe dream only worked on paper. As for capitalism its biggest drawback is how it is now seen as a religion by those with the bucks. I believe it takes a melding of the two systems, but of course that is socialism but the unwashed, ignorant masses all think that will ruin their chances at being rich.

Pixel: I literally have to lay low where I work for that reason. Of course one of my coworkers thinks that the 6000 year-old age of the universe is about right.

Rose: My wife and I have had several similar discussions about big homes. She is programmed that when a family moves it is always into something bigger. I, on the other had could easily deal with a smaller house that would take up less time to maintain.

H. M. Stuart said...

Beach Bum, we'd like to invite you set up your folding chair on our sunny shores as one of our Authors in Alexandria.

In addition to posting on anything you wish, as you desire, you may of course mirror posts you've already written from here or elsewhere to gain a different or additional audience or for any other reason that appeals to you.

If you think you might be interested, contact me through Alexandria or by return email via this comment and I'll forward our formal invitations for you to look over and return if you decide to proceed.

Come contribute your perspectives and opinions to the ongoing conversations there or, even better, start some new - and different - ones of your own.

I look forward to hearing from you.

H. M. Stuart

Life As I Know It Now said...

It's all true what you write here but nobody wants to care or do anything significant about it. I get mighty depressed when I think about it too.

Pearl said...

Oh, honey, you and I are on the same page.

I've cleaned houses that me and my partner (Mary) have stood in, laughing and planning a shower party. Do we need showers that can comfortably hold six? Do we need bedroom suites the size of one-bedroom apartments? Apparently the short-sighted, self-indulgent answer to that is "yes".

And "LOL" at MikeP.


goatman said...

Just read in The Times (oh lah de dah!)
that the board of Coca Cola is attempting to split Billions in stock options (that's right, with a B) to their top execs. Now that it is out, maybe the stockholders can cash in too.
Yeah, fat chance!

Akelamalu said...

I know a lot of people 'with money' and they all have huge houses. I only ever wanted enough room for my family (us and two boys)so we have a 3 bedroom semi with a medium size garden. Now there are just the two of us we are looking to downsize to a two bedroom bungalow, though what we are going to do with all the 'stuff' in the loft is beyond me. ;)

Martha Ball said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Beach Bum said...

Sorry Martha, I do not allow crap pseudoscience on my blog. When you idiots get some studies published by respected journals I might then change my mind. Until then you and your kind are either morons or the willing pawns of some special interest out to make a buck while screwing up the planet. Now have a really nice day and go fuck yourself.